Edited by Bert Le Bruyn and Janine Berns
[Linguistics in the Netherlands 35] 2018
► pp. 51–64
Glides and laryngeals as a structural class
Phonological processes typically affect natural classes of sounds, with the members of such classes sharing some phonetic property to the exclusion of other sounds. Recent typological work shows that not all phonological classes are natural, however (Mielke 2008). This paper considers the class of glides and laryngeals, a combination of sounds which resists a straightforward characterization in terms of shared features. Adopting the framework of Element Theory (Harris & Lindsey 1995; Backley 2011), we argue that class behaviour of glides and laryngeals is due not to their having shared phonetic content, but shared phonological structure: glides and laryngeals contain a single element in their melodic structure. We conclude that phonological processes can be sensitive to the difference between simple and complex expressions.